Empire State College is committed to the idea that people should be awarded credit for verifiable college-level learning regardless of where or how it was acquired. Many Empire State College students have gained knowledge from sources that are not validated in traditional classrooms, by standardized examinations or noncollegiate sponsored learning. This policy outlines the process for granting credit for verifiable college-level learning.
The Middle States Commission (the college’s regional accreditation body) and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) recommend that each institution make explicit and public its approach to prior-learning assessment. Together, these bodies have identified a number of elements of prior learning assessment for which the institution should define specific principles and standards (see ESC website for their statements).
The college’s principles support institutional integrity by ensuring that credit awards are credible and reflect student learning. Empire State College:
Students develop individual prior-learning requests (generally during their educational planning studies) and submit them to the center assessment office, with the guidance and review of their primary mentors.
Mentors and students engage in early and ongoing conversations regarding the student’s background, potential areas for prior-learning assessment, and potential areas for new learning – in other words, regarding the overall scope of the student’s degree and plans for learning. College offices provide online, print and in-person resources that support students in this process. However, there is no substitute for this ongoing mentor-student conversation.
Mentors work with students to develop realistic expectations regarding the kinds and amount of prior-learning credit appropriate to their individual degree programs. It is especially important for students to understand that the college awards prior-learning credit for demonstrated college-level learning, not for experience.
As students develop their prior-learning requests, mentors and assessment office staff also stress that:
The college awards credit, upon the approval of the faculty acting through the center portfolio reviewc ommittee and with the concurrence of the Office of Collegewide Academic Review (OCAR).
A student who is requesting extensive prior-learning credit may need additional time after earning credit in educational planning to prepare all the requests for evaluation. The student must submit the complete degree program portfolio within college timelines in order to continue enrolling.
The student’s mentor for educational planning (and/or the mentor/tutor who supervises the student’s work on prior-learning requests) is responsible for helping the student to shape each prior-learning request to meet college expectations. Students and mentors should consult the Student Degree Planning Guide and a student guide, "Credit for Prior College-Level Learning," (available online and in print) and a variety of other online and print resources. Center assessment office staff and other mentors also may assist through individual consultations and/or credit or noncredit workshops and resource materials.
For each area in which a student requests an assessment of prior learning, the student submits to the center assessment office a written request(usually in the form of an essay), which identifies and describes her/his college-level learning and how s/he acquired the learning.
Students should think of prior-learning requests as learning components within the overall degree. Guided by her/his research and consultation with the mentor, the student proposes a specific title for the learning component, the amount and level of credit, and liberal arts and sciences and/or SUNY general-education designations, if appropriate. In the request, the student makes a case for any of these elements, when needed. The student develops the request and credit proposal with guidance from her/his mentor, and the mentor reviews the submission.
Evaluators need to be able to see how the learning they are evaluating fits into the context of the student’s proposed degree program in order to address questions of level of learning, potential redundancy with other degree components, etc. Therefore, the student should submit, along with a learning request, a draft degree plan reviewed by the mentor (and may sometimes include other materials such as the degree program rationale essay), so that the request can be placed in the context of a full degree program. It is in the student’s best interest to include at least a rough draft of the degree plan to ensure that the evaluated credit has a place in the program.
The student may group closely related components into a single request (with any supporting documentation), as long as s/he specifies for each component the learning, source of learning and proposed title, credit amount, level, and liberal arts and sciences and/or SUNY general-education designations.
The student’s request includes a learning description and a list of relevant documents or other materials that s/he can provide to the evaluator to support the credit request. In some cases, the student provides the supporting documents directly to the evaluator for review during the evaluation process. In other cases, the center assessment office facilitates this process, and may collect materials from the student and forward them to the evaluator. The evaluator also may request additional documentation from the student. The college may provide online tools that support the exchange of documents and materials and communication among students, evaluators, mentor and assessment staff.
A prior-learning request is an important document in which the student should be able to take pride. This means that the final draft of the request should meet college-level writing expectations in terms of substance, presentationand academic integrity.
The student needs to develop the request sufficiently for center assessment staff to identify an evaluator who is qualified to evaluate the student’s learning. The student also needs to describe the learning sufficiently for the evaluator to select appropriate methods of evaluation and identify areas of potential redundancy with other degree program components.
If a request does not meet the college’s expectations, the director of academic review for the center may require that the student develop it further or make any essential corrections, before s/he places the request with an evaluator.
Center assessment office staff place all prior-learning requests with qualified evaluators, normally within 30 days of receiving a request that is ready for placement. Assessment staff provide contact information to the student and evaluator as appropriate.
On rare occasions, the college is unable to place a request because a qualified evaluator is not available. In this case, the assessment office notifies the student and mentor and returns the request.
The college does not accept prior-learning evaluations directly solicited by students. A student may, however, suggest a possible evaluator. The center assessment office determines if a student-identified evaluator meets the college’s criteria regarding qualifications and the absence of any possible conflict of interest.
The student is responsible for making contact with the evaluator, responding to requests for additional supporting materials in a timely fashion and participating actively in the evaluation process. The student is also responsible for notifying the center assessment office if s/he cannot make contact with the evaluator or has other difficulties with the process.
The evaluator is responsible for making contact with the student and for notifying the center assessment office if s/he cannot make contact with the student or has other difficulties with the process. The evaluator may specify that s/he prefers to make the initial contact with the student. The evaluator is responsible for assessing and making a written recommendation regarding the student’s learning, normally within 45 days of receiving the request.
Assessment office staff are responsible for appropriate and timely follow up on prior-learning requests and recommendations.
In formulating a prior learning recommendation, the evaluator:
Written prior learning recommendations should meet the following criteria:
An evaluator may recommend the amount and kind of credit requested, or may recommend more, less or no credit and/or a different title, level, description of learning, liberal studies or general education designation, etc.
The director of academic review for the center ensures that evaluator recommendations meet the college’s quality criteria, and may obtain further information, return for revision, or reassign evaluations that do not meet college expectations.
The center assessment office provides a copy of the evaluator recommendation to the student and the mentor, making clear that the recommendation is not an award of credit.
If the center program review committee believes that an evaluator recommendation does not meet the college’s quality criteria, the committee may request further information or revision or ask that the request be placed with another evaluator.
Payment of evaluators is based on the size and complexity of the credit request (using the college’s current compensation model), not on the amount of credit the evaluator recommends.
The faculty of the college, through the center program review committee, is responsible for approving the award of prior learning credit by the college. The college awards prior learning credit following approval by the faculty, and a technical review of the degree program and portfolio by the Office of College Assessment Services.
After approval by the center assessment committee, the portfolio (which includes the degree program) is sent to the Office of Collegewide Review (OCAR), which raises questions if there are technical errors or an incomplete portfolio. Within 30 days after receiving the portfolio, OCAS informs the director of academic review regarding whether the portfolio has been concurred. Once OCAS clears the portfolio, the center decision becomes official.
Given the distinct role of the director of academic review in quality review of prior learning evaluations, the DAR normally does not conduct prior learning evaluations for students in her/his home center. The DAR may conduct prior-learning evaluations for students in other centers.
The primary mentor normally does not conduct prior-learning evaluations for her/his own students (i.e., primary mentees).
If the director of academic review judges this to be the best placement, s/he may request that the primary mentor conduct an evaluation. This may occur only if conducting the evaluation would not lead the primary mentor to exceed the college’s limits on credit placed with one evaluator. The primary mentor may decline to conduct the evaluation, in which case the DAR places the request with another evaluator.
Consistent with principle 17, the upper limit for a student’s total prior-learning credit request(s) assigned to a single evaluator is 20 credits. The purpose of this limit is to support the institutional integrity of the prior-learning assessment process by ensuring that no single person evaluates too much of a student's overall degree program.
When a student requests a larger amount of credit in an area, center assessment staff divide requests among two or more evaluators. In this case, center assessment staff ask at least one of the evaluators to pay special attention to possible redundancy in the program. Alternatively, a large request may be placed with a team of evaluators, in which case the team needs to comment on possible redundancy in the program.
In unusual instances it might be necessary to exceed the limit on credit placed with one evaluator. In these cases, the director of academic review makes a determination and documents the rationale for exceeding the limit.
If a student has reason to appeal a decision of the center assessment committee, he or she may do so in accordance with the college's Academic Appeals Policy and Procedures found in the undergraduate catalog and online.
Related Policies: Advanced Standing Credit: Transcript Credit; Policy and Procedures for Degree Program and Portfolio Review and Approval; Policy on Educational Planning Studies; Degree Program Rationale; Breadth of Degree Programs and SUNY General Education Requirements; Individualized Program Design: Bachelor’s Degrees; Individualized Program Design: Associate Degrees